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Written Statement - Free Entry to Heritage Sites
I am announcing today that following a review of the current arrangements in respect of free entry to heritage sites in Cadw’s care, I have accepted the recommendation to change the focus of the Welsh Assembly Government’s policy. In particular we will be ending the scheme which allows Welsh residents aged over 60 or 16 and under to apply for a free pass. The policy has not wholly met its intended objectives and in order to achieve these, Cadw will now be tasked with building upon its programme of free entry associated with targeted initiatives and special events. The aim will be to both increase the number and widen the profile of visitors attracted to these sites and particularly to address the needs of people with disabilities and other under-represented groups. Passes already issued under the existing scheme will be honoured. The free entry scheme has been in operation for two and a half years and my officials in Cadw have reviewed, analysed and evaluated its effectiveness.
Since the scheme was launched in September 2008, some 30,000 free entry passes have been issued. 84% of these have been for people aged 60 and over and 16% have been for children aged 16 or under. Although more than 39,000 visits have been made using these passes this amounts to only some 1.5% of the 1.2 million people per year visiting those Cadw sites where there is an admission charge.
In addition the analysis undertaken by Cadw has shown that the scheme has not managed to attract the groups currently under-represented in Cadw’s visitor profile. We see very little indication that the initiative has attracted many lower waged families - a key issue that the policy was introduced to address.
Research and pilot projects undertaken over the last 2 years indicate that monument open days where no admission charge is made and programmes of special events, even when an admission charge is made, have greater appeal to a broader audience base. These targeted events offer a better opportunity to attract those groups within our communities currently under-represented in Cadw’s visitor profile. I am in no doubt that they offer a more effective means of delivering on our commitment to make heritage sites in Wales more accessible to all.
The Assembly Government is therefore proposing to build on and extend the targeted initiatives Cadw already has in place to encourage a broader spectrum of visitors. The aim will be to achieve a balance between free and discounted admissions policies and investment in actions which develop enhanced public enjoyment and understanding of the heritage sites in care. Cadw will be asked to focus on activities for families and to develop events which tie into wider community aspirations and local celebrations. I expect these to include special evening visitor events which could have a social and economic benefit beyond the monument into the local economy.
The key priorities of the new approach will be to
retain Cadw’s free admission policy for education and learning visits, visitors with disabilities (and their companions) and other targeted incentives
develop and expand the programme of community events and learning festivals, working with communities and local agencies, in particular targeting key areas of deprivation close to Cadw sites
extend community engagement projects at monuments where there is a lack of community involvement or problematic behaviour
introduce and actively promote free “Open Days” for all, supported by special events at key monuments
sustain and wherever possible build on current programmes of interpretation and lifelong learning.
The monuments in Cadw’s care represent some of the most important jewels in Wales’ priceless collection of heritage treasures. I have been absolutely committed to ensuring that as many people as possible should be able to enjoy those treasures and I believe that this important policy change will take us a further step in that direction.